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Last Updated : Sep 20, 2019 01:34 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

Explained | Politics, history and the current row over Hindi language

Seeking to put a rest to the controversy over his remarks on Hindi, Amit Shah said he never asked for imposition of Hindi anywhere in the country but advocated its use as the second language

Home Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Amit Shah stirred a hornet's nest with his recent pitch for Hindi as a common language, drawing sharp reactions from across India.

Leaders in south Indian states, including Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala, criticised Shah’s speech. Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) president MK Stalin, Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) founder and president Kamal Haasan, actor-turned-politician Rajinikanth, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and others slammed the BJP strongman for his pitch for Hindi as a common language.

The DMK even announced demonstrations across Tamil Nadu on September 20 against Shah's pitch for Hindi, while Haasan warned of an "exponentially bigger battle" than the 2017 pro-Jallikattu protests against "imposition" of the language.


Amid these reactions over his remark, Shah later said he has never asked for imposition of Hindi over native languages in the country but advocated its use as the second language, following which DMK announced the postponement of its protest.

How the row erupted

Amit Shah, on the occasion of Hindi Day celebrated on September 14, said it is Hindi which is spoken the most and can unite the whole country. "India has many languages and every language has its importance. But it is necessary that the entire country should have one language that becomes India's identity globally," Amit Shah said in a series of tweets in Hindi.

Later, speaking at a function on the day, Shah said Hindi should reach every individual and every home in the country.

Hindi Divas is observed to mark the decision of the Constituent Assembly to extend official language status to Hindi on this day in 1949. It was first observed in 1953.

Shah’s remark immediately sparked protests in south Indian states with leaders of regional parties coming forward to criticize the BJP strongman.

History of anti-Hindi protest

Soon after Shah’s comment, reactions started pouring in. The sharpest criticism came from Tamil Nadu, a state that has been witnessing anti-Hindi campaigns since 1937, when EV Ramasamy, also known as Periyar, spearheaded the movement against C Rajagopalachari’s diktat on compulsory Hindi in secondary schools. At that time, Rajagopalachari, or Rajaji as he was known, was Premier of Madras Presidency.

The next round of aggressive anti-Hindi movement was seen in Tamil Nadu in 1965 in the light of reports that Hindi would replace English as the official language. The DMK consolidated mass support against the move. A comparatively young party, the DMK came to power two years later by using the 1965 agitation in a politically deft way.

After coming to power, the DMK repealed the Centre’s three-language formula in 1968. To this day, the Tamil Nadu government has stuck to the two-language formula of teaching Tamil and English in schools.

Even in 2019 when BJP retained the power, a controversy erupted on the inclusion of a clause to continue the three-language policy in schools in the draft of the National Education Policy (NEP) released on May 31. The Opposition roared out in defence, calling the clause “thrusting” of the Hindi language on students, leading the Centre to issue a clarification.

Who says what?

MK Stalin: DMK chief MK Stalin accused the Centre of "autocratic imposition of Hindi" and underscored the need for unity in opposition ranks to take forward protest against the government on such issues. However, after Shah’s clarification on his speech about Hindi, Stalin said DMK considered his clarification as a big victory for the party.

Siddaramaiah: “The lie that Hindi is a national language should stop. Let it be known to all that it is just like Kannada, one among the 22 official languages of India,” former Karnataka CM and Congress leader Siddaramaiah said in a tweet in in Kannada.

Kamal Haasan: “The unity in diversity is a promise that we made when we made India into a Republic. Now, no Shah, Sultan or Samrat must renege on that promise. We respect all languages, but our mother language will always be Tamil,” MNM founder Haasan said in a video.

Rajinikanth: Veteran actor Rajinikanth said the concept of a common language in India was not possible and asserted any attempts of Hindi imposition will not be only be resisted by southern states, but even many in the North.

Pinarayi Vijayan: "The claim that Hindi unifies our country is absurd. That language is not the mother tongue of a majority of Indians. The move to impose Hindi on them amounts to enslaving them. The Union Minister's statement is a war cry against the mother tongues of non-Hindi speaking people," said Kerala CM P Vijayan.

BS Yediyurappa: “All official languages in our country are equal. However, as far as Karnataka is concerned, Kannada is the principal language. We will never compromise its importance and are committed to promote Kannada and our state's culture,” Karnataka CM and BJP leader BS Yediyurappa said in a tweet.

Rahul Gandhi: "India’s many languages are not her weakness," Congress leader Rahul and Kerala's Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi tweeted with mentioning 23 languages.

Yogi Adityanath: Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath backed Shah's idea and said, "Hindi is our official language. Respecting our official language or anything that represents our country is our responsibility."

BJP allies: Even as the Opposition stepped up attack on Home Minister Amit Shah for his 'one nation, one language' statement, the BJP regional allies do not seem too happy about it either.

The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), a BJP ally and a National Democratic Alliance (NDA) component, stated that while the party believes in nationalism and 'one India policy', it does not subscribe to the 'one language' idea.

Shiv Sena spokesperson Manisha Kayande said: "While we have adopted the three-language formula, we will not tolerate the imposition of Hindi over Marathi. In Maharashtra, Marathi should be favoured."

Clarification by Amit Shah

However, the row that erupted has now subsided with Amit Shah’s clarification. On September 18, Shah said he never asked for imposition of Hindi anywhere in the country but advocated its use as the second language.
First Published on Sep 20, 2019 01:34 pm